Remains of around 150,000 Roman era refugees found the Netherlands

Dec 2015
It has recently been confirmed, that the site in southern Netherlands, in which lots of human bones and items have been coming out of the ground for the last years, is where the battle against asylum seekers / refugees belonging to two barbarian peoples - the Tencteri and the Usipetes - took place in 55 BC. About 150,000 people were slaughtered by the Roman army under Julius Caesar. It took place near what is now the city of Kessel:

Julius Caesar battlefield unearthed in southern Netherlands | World news | The Guardian

Archaeologists claim to have proved that Julius Caesar set foot on what is now Dutch soil, destroying two Germanic tribes in a battle that left about 150,000 people dead.

The tribes were massacred in the fighting with the Romans in 55 BC, on a battle site now near Kessel, in the southern province of Brabant.

Skeletons, spearheads, swords and a helmet have been unearthed at the site over the past three decades. But now carbon dating as well as other historical and geochemical analysis have proved the items dated to the 1st century BC, the VU University in Amsterdam said.

“It is the first time the presence of Caesar and his troops on Dutch soil has been explicitly shown,” said Nico Roymans, an archaeologist at the institution.

The two tribes, the Tencteri and the Usipetes, came from an area east of the Rhine and had asked Caesar for asylum. But he refused and ordered his 8 legions and cavalry to destroy them, the university said.

Caesar wrote about the battle in his account of the Gallic wars, "Commentarii de Bello Gallico", but the exact location of it had until now remained a mystery. He said he wiped out the tribes (...) the university said the toll was likely to be 150,000 to 200,000.
Could be something like this:



The massacre of the Usipetes and Tencteri - Ancient Warfare - Karwansaray Publishers

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Mar 2014
I highly doubt a massacre of 150,000. Even ignoring the population question, the logistics would be tricky for a 21st century organisation with motor vehicles, guns, and satellites to pull off. A Roman general?

EDIT: Oh, it was a battle (according to the Romans, anyway). That makes me doubt the figure even more.
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Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
Western Eurasia
Asylum seekers? Talk about applying 21st century values!

Give me strength.
have to get the attention somehow. :D

I see bigger problem in the article it doesn't give much definite info on the findings, so how many skeletons have they found there? how many Roman and Germanic items among them? etc.
throwing in the 150-200,000 toll is just for selling the news i guess.
Dec 2015
Asylum seekers? Talk about applying 21st century values!

Give me strength.
Yes, they asked for asylum:

"came from an area east of the Rhine and had asked Caesar for asylum"

Even ignoring the population question
There is a very good book (in English) by Ludwik Krzywicki, "Primitive Society and Its Vital Statistics".

It describes population sizes of primitive tribes which existed in various parts of the world until the 1800s-1900s.

Two tribes, on similar level of development as Iron Age Germanics, could easily number so many people.

the logistics would be tricky
The logistics of barbarian migrations is described in the account of the migration of the Helvetii and their allies.

Here it is (a very good account of how a tribal migration looked like), from "The Gallic Wars":

"Chapter 2

Among the Helvetii, Orgetorix was by far the most distinguished and
wealthy. He, when Marcus Messala and Marcus Piso were consuls, incited
by lust of sovereignty, formed a conspiracy among the nobility, and
persuaded the people to go forth from their territories with all their
possessions, [saying] that it would be very easy, since they excelled
all in valor, to acquire the supremacy of the whole of Gaul. To this
he the more easily persuaded them, because the Helvetii, are confined
on every side by the nature of their situation; on one side by the
Rhine, a very broad and deep river, which separates the Helvetian
territory from the Germans; on a second side by the Jura, a very high
mountain, which is [situated] between the Sequani and the Helvetii;
on a third by the Lake of Geneva, and by the river Rhone, which separates
our Province from the Helvetii. From these circumstances it resulted,
that they could range less widely, and could less easily make war
upon their neighbors; for which reason men fond of war [as they were]
were affected with great regret. They thought, that considering the
extent of their population, and their renown for warfare and bravery,
they had but narrow limits, although they extended in length 240,
and in breadth 180 [Roman] miles.

Chapter 3

Induced by these considerations, and influenced by the authority of
Orgetorix, they determined to provide such things as were necessary
for their expedition ‐ to buy up as great a number as possible of
beasts of burden and wagons ‐ to make their sowings as large as possible,
so that on their march plenty of corn might be in store ‐ and to establish
peace and friendship with the neighboring states. They reckoned that
a term of two years would be sufficient for them to execute their
designs; they fix by decree their departure for the third year. Orgetorix
is chosen to complete these arrangements. He took upon himself the
office of embassador to the states: on this journey he persuades Casticus,
the son of Catamantaledes (one of the Sequani, whose father had possessed
the sovereignty among the people for many years, and had been styled
ʺfriendʺ by the senate of the Roman people), to seize upon the sovereignty
in his own state, which his father had held before him, and he likewise
persuades Dumnorix, an Aeduan, the brother of Divitiacus, who at that
time possessed the chief authority in the state, and was exceedingly
beloved by the people, to attempt the same, and gives him his daughter
in marriage. He proves to them that to accomplish their attempts was
a thing very easy to be done, because he himself would obtain the
government of his own state; that there was no doubt that the Helvetii
were the most powerful of the whole of Gaul; he assures them that
he will, with his own forces and his own army, acquire the sovereignty
for them. Incited by this speech, they give a pledge and oath to one
another, and hope that, when they have seized the sovereignty, they
will, by means of the three most powerful and valiant nations, be
enabled to obtain possession of the whole of Gaul.

Chapter 4

When this scheme was disclosed to the Helvetii by informers, they,
according to their custom, compelled Orgetorix to plead his cause
in chains; it was the law that the penalty of being burned by fire
should await him if condemned. On the day appointed for the pleading
of his cause, Orgetorix drew together from all quarters to the court,
all his vassals to the number of ten thousand persons; and led together
to the same place all his dependents and debtor‐bondsmen, of whom
he had a great number; by means of those he rescued himself from [the
necessity of] pleading his cause. While the state, incensed at this
act, was endeavoring to assert its right by arms, and the magistrates
were mustering a large body of men from the country, Orgetorix died;
and there is not wanting a suspicion, as the Helvetii think, of his
having committed suicide.

Chapter 5

After his death, the Helvetii nevertheless attempt to do that which
they had resolved on, namely, to go forth from their territories.
When they thought that they were at length prepared for this undertaking,
they set fire to all their towns, in number about twelve ‐ to their
villages about four hundred ‐ and to the private dwellings that remained;
they burn up all the corn, except what they intend to carry with them;
that after destroying the hope of a return home, they might be the
more ready for undergoing all dangers. They order every one to carry
forth from home for himself provisions for three months, ready ground.
They persuade the Rauraci, and the Tulingi, and the Latobrigi, their
neighbors, to adopt the same plan, and after burning down their towns
and villages, to set out with them: and they admit to their party
and unite to themselves as confederates the Boii, who had dwelt on
the other side of the Rhine, and had crossed over into the Norican
territory, and assaulted Noreia.

Chapter 6

There were in all two routes, by which they could go forth from their
country one through the Sequani narrow and difficult, between Mount
Jura and the river Rhone (by which scarcely one wagon at a time could
be led; there was, moreover, a very high mountain overhanging, so
that a very few might easily intercept them; the other, through our
Province, much easier and freer from obstacles, because the Rhone
flows between the boundaries of the Helvetii and those of the Allobroges,
who had lately been subdued, and is in some places crossed by a ford.
The furthest town of the Allobroges, and the nearest to the territories
of the Helvetii, is Geneva. From this town a bridge extends to the
Helvetii. They thought that they should either persuade the Allobroges,
because they did not seem as yet well‐affected toward the Roman people,
or compel them by force to allow them to pass through their territories.
Having provided every thing for the expedition, they appoint a day,
on which they should all meet on the bank of the Rhone. This day was
the fifth before the kalends of April [i.e. the 28th of March], in
the consulship of Lucius Piso and Aulus Gabinius [B.C. 58.]


Chapter 29

In the camp of the Helvetii, lists were found, drawn up in Greek characters,
and were brought to Caesar, in which an estimate had been drawn up,
name by name, of the number which had gone forth from their country
of those who were able to bear arms; and likewise the boys, the old
men, and the women, separately. Of all which items the total was:
Of the Helvetii [lit. of the heads of the Helvetii] 263,000
Of the Tulingi . . . . . . . . . . . 36,000
Of the Latobrigi . . . . . . . . 14,000
Of the Rauraci . . . . . . . . . 23,000
Of the Boii . . . . . . . . . . . . 32,000
The sum of all amounted to . . . 368,000.
Out of these, such as could bear arms, [amounted] to about 92,000."


One Roman mile = 1,481 km
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Ad Honoris
Jan 2010
Caesar spoke about 430.000 enemies (who had just 800 men cavalry). Even if we take a population density like the Northern gauls had, it would give a Territorium of 50-100.000 ariovist with only 22000 men had a cavalry of about 6000 men. The 430.000 enemies mean, if it is the total population, about 100-110.000 fighters. And caesar's Legions, about 40.000 defeated them, without losses?
Dec 2015
Dec 2015
beorna said:
about 100-110.000 fighters. And caesar's Legions, about 40.000 defeated them, without losses?
At that time the Romans still had a very large technological superiority over Germanic warriors:

As Tacitus wrote about Germanics (in 98 AD - so actually almost 150 years after the times of Caesar):

"(...) Iron is not plentiful among them, as may be inferred from the nature of their weapons. Only a few make use of swords or long lances. Ordinarily they carry a spear (which they call a framea), with a short and narrow head, but so sharp and easy to handle that the same weapon serves, according to circumstances, for close or distant conflict. As for the horse-soldier, he is satisfied with a shield and a spear. The foot-soldiers also scatter showers of missiles, each man having several and hurling them to an immense distance, and being naked or lightly clad with a little cloak. They make no display in their equipment. Their shields alone are marked with fancy colors. Only a few have corselets, and just one or two here and there a metal or leather helmet. Their horses are neither beautiful nor swift; nor are they taught various wheeling movements after the Roman fashion, but are driven straight forward so as to make one turn to the right in such a compact body that none may be left behind another. (...)"

This description reminds me of early descriptions of Slavic warriors crossing the Danube in the 500s AD.
May 2015
The Netherlands
Here's a bit more information in English:
The massacre of the Usipetes and Tencteri - Ancient Warfare - Karwansaray Publishers

To clarify: the archeological findings are not new. The remains of whatever massacre took place there have been uncovered over the past few decades. Recent research based on radiocarbon dating has established that the victims were not locals - they came from East of the Rhine - and it links them to the right period of time. The location more or less corresponds with Caesar's writings, as do the remains of so many men, women and children with wounds inflicted by (Roman) weapons. Caesar spoke of 430.000 barbarians, but historians put the number closer to 150.000. I'm not quite sure how many remains have been uncovered so far, but supposedly many of them also perished in the river, or their remains were disposed there.
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